Chip Starnes, the US factory boss who was held in his Beijing factory for nearly a week, was released Thursday – reluctantly. Despite the tearful face, Starnes was actually quite happy when he was found holed up in the factory. He had been living off of mid-grade caviar and champagne while under what some workers described as self-imposed duress. In fact, workers said they spent the past week trying to get him out of his quarters and to the bank to get their wages.
The revelation was “humiliating,” Starnes said. He also said wages simply couldn’t be paid because there was no money in the banks this week. The embarrassment has led him to seek out refugee status in a corrupt, third-world country where he can continue a lavish lifestyle. Starnes reportedly first flew to Moscow (the Russian government denies that he landed there) but will soon head toward Nicaragua, where he’ll live out the rest of his days. He also hopes to recover his workers’ wages there, after they were pumped from a Chinese bank into a US$40 billion canal project that will rival that old, crappy one in Panama.
Despite the chastening experience, Starnes is highly preferred to the other runaway American in China-related news these days: Edward Snowden. And that’s because there’s really only one picture of that spy guy. He could be a cardboard cut-out designed by the Chinese government for all we know. On the other hand, Starnes is a star, providing the media with all sorts of great shots from several different angles, like this one, or this one or this one.
Starnes should consider himself lucky that he didn’t end up like this factory boss. He’ll also enjoy the fine cuisine and democratic practices of Central America. Snowden, on the other hand, might not be so lucky since he has the world’s most sophisticated security agency on his tail. We hope he enjoyed that pizza and fried chicken in Hong Kong. Not much more of that where he’s headed.